No falling down tonight OEL.
The Phoenix Coyotes begin their 2011 - 2012 campaign against the team the club they ended last season against, the San Jose Sharks. The Coyote's roster to begin the season looks different in goal and at forward. The Valley's pro hockey team has six new forwards and one new goaltender on their roster to start the season.The biggest additions are starting goaltender Mike Smith and center Daymond Langkow. Most Coyotes fans are already familiar with Langkow courtesy of his previous stint in Phoenix and Smith due to his time in the Stars organization.
The Desert Dogs won the last regular season meeting between the squads back on April 8th in Glendale. However, the Coyotes have lost their last seven of eight games against the Sharks including the past five at HP Pavilion. This Pacific division rivalry has turned entirely too one sided in the last year and a half. Will tonight be the night the Dogs put an end to their Silicon Valley troubles?
The Yotes lack top shelf offensive skill. Ray Whitney, Daymond Langkow, and Shane Doan are the closest thing they've got. Against a team like the Sharks scoring just a goal or two rarely gets you a win. The Dogs need their best line to produce. On the back end the road team will need Oliver Ekman-Larsson to show his maturity tonight. He needs to play conservatively against a team like the Sharks that is full of fast skaters.
Last year's Pacific Division winners made the biggest splash of the off-season by trading forwards Devon Setaguchi and Danny Heatley to the Wild in exchange for forward Matin Havlat and defensemen Brent Burns. The Sharks also picked up free agent center and former Coyote Michael Handzus. Havlat is out injured for tonight's contest which is a plus for the Desert Dogs.
Smith faces a tough test in his regular season debut for the Desert Dogs. Can he make people in Phoenix forget #30.
Greiss gets the start due to injuries to Anti Niemmi and Antero Niittymaki. This will be only his 21st regular season appearance in net for San Jose.
Fresh off signing a new 5 year contract extension (and being named assistant captain), the Coyotes center will start to earn his money tonight. The Sharks strength is down the middle and Hanzal will likely be tasked to be Coach Tippett's shut down guy.
The new Shark is being counted on to improve the Sharks power play performance. Playing against a team with the 26th ranked penalty kill in the league last season should provide Burns with the opportunity to prove his worth.